Review: For Whom the Bell Tolls, performed by Telia Nevile
Friday, May 13 2011
With teenage angst to rival Sylvia Plath, Poet Laureate Telia Neville’s For Whom The Bell Tolls treks the adolescent experience from inside the literature classroom. Drawing on the literary icons that either inspired or dispirited us during our high-school years, Neville sets their fables against the romances and dashed loves of playground days.
Against the struggles and picking-ons that take place in the schoolyard, Neville pockets us away into the world of poetry. In a range of haikus and twitter-like lines, she blends the literary thrust of classic novels with Facebook-like renderings of their stories and their characters. The sarcastic and pathetically school-girlish rhymes that feature in the show become like pop-songs: catchy, rhythmic, pulsating. It’s like rereading The Bell Jar, and realising how pathetically we understood the themes.
Neville’s performance as the troubled teen whose relief from the threatening glares of girls, and the prying eyes of boys, comes in the form of badly-written poems, is outstanding. Perched on her stool on stage, Neville figures as someone we’d more convincingly see hiding in a toilet-cubicle than on the stage, as she gawkishly thuds out her wordy phrases. They’re not so much contrived, slap-dash poems as confessional, chipped-away insights into adolescent angst at its ironic best. Telia Neville is a poet laureate for a generation.